In the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, there are three angelic messages addressed to Joseph. They are messages of invitation (1:20-21), protection (2:13) and victory (2:20).
(1) The Invitation
Joseph is invited to involve himself in God’s purpose of salvation.
It is emphasized that this is God’s work. It is supernatural. It is not the work of man. It is the work of God. Joseph is not required to do anything in the way of procreation. He has simply to acknowledge what God has done - “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (1:20). There is nothing for Joseph to accomplish. There is only one thing he can do. he must acknowledge the mighty miracle of God.
Here, Joseph is faced with an invitation to which he must give his reply. he is invited to take Mary as his wife. In taking Mary as his wife - not only as his son but also as his Saviour.
Here, we have the Good News of Christ. Here, we have God’s Word to us.
- God has given His Son to us.
- God invites us to take Jesus as our Saviour.
(2) The Protection
God protects Joseph, Mary and Jesus. We can be more specific. God protects Jesus. Joseph and Mary are part of God’s protection plan. They are instruments of God’s protection.
God’s protection of Jesus takes the form of a ‘moonlight flitting’. God protects Jesus by relocating Him. Jesus’ first change of address comes very early in life.
God tells Joseph where he is to take Mary and Jesus - “take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt (2:13). God will tell Joseph how long they are to stay in Egypt - “remain there till I tell you”.
This was not to be a long-term move. It was to be a short-term move. They were only to stay in Egypt until the time of danger was over.
Joseph had taken Jesus to be not only his son but also his Saviour. Now, Joseph had to look after Jesus as He grew up.
There is a lesson for us here also. It’s a lesson concerning spiritual growth. we are to take care of Jesus. We are to treasure Him. We are to let Him grow up in our lives.
Being a Christian is not only becoming a Christian. It is not only the initial decision. There is the life to be lived. There is the life-long process of spiritual growth.
In the life of Jesus, Joseph is in the background. He does not come out of the background. Jesus is in the foreground. Joseph is in the background.
This is the way it must be with us. Jesus is in the foreground. we are in the background.
Joseph did not compete with Jesus. He gave all the glory to Jesus - not only as his son but also as his Saviour.
This is how it must be with us. There can be no glory for ourselves. the glory belongs to Jesus.
(3) The Victory
The third angelic message is a declaration of victory. The angel comes with this message - “those who sought the child are dead” (2:20). This is a declaration of victory. the enemy has been defeated.
Now, the short-term measure of rehousing in Egypt is no longer necessary. God’s purpose of salvation can move forward with the return of His Son to the land of Israel. To Joseph, God says, “go to the land of Israel”.
God’s purpose is moving on. We must move with Him. we are to move in His victory.
What is God saying to us from these three angelic messages? - He speaks to us concerning Jesus. He invites us to take Him as our Saviour. He calls us to rise to the challenge of living the life of victory.
The second and third angelic messages begin with the word, “Rise”.
In the story of Joseph, the word “rise” follows on from the word “dream”. Many people look at the Christmas story with disdain. They despise all this talk of angels. They dismiss it as something from long ago, something which has no relevance for today’s world.
They would read the story of Joseph and say, “What’s all this talk about dreams? You don’t expect me to take this seriously.”
Such people refuse to believe the Christmas story. it is too other-worldly for them. They would write off Joseph as a dreamer, living in a dreamland.
Joseph had some fascinating dreams, but he did not live in a dreamland. His dreams changed the way he lived his life in the real world. His dreams had a life-changing effect.
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke the memorable words, “I have a dream.” Was he to be dismissed as a dreamer, living in a dreamworld? - No! His “influence and leadership during the troubled 1960s may have saved America from a bloody racial civil war.” “He did more than any other individual of the 20th century to make black emancipation a political and social fact in modern America.”
Are we - in the first decade of the 21st century - dreaming when we dream of better things for Christ in our congregations and communities? - Yes! We are dreamers - but let’s remember this: dreams have a way of becoming reality when we take them seriously and act upon them!